"It will be hard convincing Westeros of your intentions." Jorah said. "Especially the maesters."
Jorah, myself, and Bronn were currently riding together in the front. I on my stag and the other two on their horses. I was in Northern clothing as I didn't need to pull the same stunt I did the other day. Once we reached the Vale I would change to something a little more revealing. For now, though, I wore something that was suited to a queen. While riding together the conversation had turned to what I planned to do to the political landscape after I secured my place on the Iron Throne.
"My House committed a grave crime against them." I agreed. "Lies from my House led to Oldtown being attacked. Even in other circumstances, I wouldn't expect them to change their ways easily."
Daenerys, for all her faults, had said she wanted to break the wheel. I don't think she understood that statement and once she had gone mad that desire had gone away. Or at least I assumed it had as killing Yara and marrying Cersei didn't make sense otherwise. Since my former friend had lost sight of one of her goals, I felt it fell to me to fulfill it.
"Those cunts are stuck in their ways." Bronn agreed.
"And without the backing of the Faith of the Seven, you can't afford to lose the support of the maesters." Jorah said.
"They won't be happy to hear that I'm starting my own school, either." I replied with a shake of my head. "So once they hear how much I want to change Westeros, they won't be happy."
It would be hard to convince anyone, much less the maesters, that my changes were meant for the betterment of all. The Iron Throne would still be held by one House, but the way to be won would be slightly different. A form of democracy, or at least my understanding of it, would be introduced. While the right by conquest would still be in effect, there would also be a series of elections to win the Iron Throne. It was a less bloody way of doing things. As Daenerys' conquest of Westeros was done out of vengeance, I would make into law that once the throne switched hands the former House had no claim. It would not be popular to think of there being any weight to reclaiming the Iron Throne. I didn't think this would stop a future Daenerys, but I hoped it would help.
"Even if they don't agree with your school, if you sway them they will accept it." Jorah said. "They might even try to improve themselves to compete. The last thing they would want is to be overshadowed by another group of maesters."
"I think what should be more of a concern is what if the Starks are no longer in control of the North." Bronn said. "There is no greater House the North respects. Rin's plan might anger them and...we've seen what happens when you anger the North."
The War of the Five Kings. The war that killed Robb Stark brother of Arya Stark. It was a danger in my plan but what plan, what change, was done without the possibility of failure? Only cowards dealt in schemes where they would always be the victors. Bringing change to the political landscape would risk bloodshed. That meant I needed good diplomats and to solidify my good name on the land.
"Allowing people choices means change." I replied. "There will be elections so that the people can vote on which House controls each region. If House Stark can hold itself up, it will continue to rule the North for a very long time."
"And if the Starks lose control of the North?" Bronn prodded.
"Then they will have to find a solution that has a good outcome for them. If they dare lash out in anger that will be seen as treason to the Iron Throne. While I don't want to kill that House, they will have to face consequences for their actions."
I preferred peaceful solutions to violent ones. There was a time for peace and a time for war. Denying either their proper place could be deadly. What I intended would be very strange to the people of Westeros which meant possible violence. How I handled Daenerys would help show that I was a worthy ruler to those I wished to rule. I would turn to advisors to help me as humans would forever be strange creatures to me.
"Your changes to bastards will be more accepted because of Jon Snow." Jorah said, changing subjects to keep us calm. "If it wasn't for the fact he gained enough support to be King of the North there would be problems."
Jon, hopefully my future second husband, had done a lot in his life. He had been raised as a bastard and yet had risen through the ranks. His was a story that showed bastards could become accomplished. His was a story that showed bastards weren't less because of their blood. Bastards would become just like any other person. I wouldn't force this new ideal on others, though, but would provide benefits for those that followed my new way.
"He is supposed to be a caring leader." I replied with a nod. "He cares for his people and doesn't put on a performance like others."
"And how long will that part of him last once he rules the Seven Kingdoms?" Bronn pointed out. "He could be the greatest fucking bastard out there but he could make a mistake. Even if he doesn't make a mistake certain cunts may fabricate stories about him."
"And make Rin seem to be an incompetent ruler." Jorah added. "She would have him in her bed and by her side."
"Then during the time we destroy Daenerys and the White Walkers, we can only pray he proves himself. So any dissenters will be in the minority and ignored." I replied.
Other changes to the political landscape would be Houses having their rulers chosen by tests and not by looking at the eldest child. The tests could be an election or something similar to what my House had done before the Doom. This wouldn't be a law, but benefits would be given to Houses that changed their ways. Each region would also send a representative to the council in King's Landing and their appointment would last a year with no chance of renewal. No need for them to risk the allure of power that had driven many mad. The representatives didn't have to be from the ruling House so if the ruling House wished to secure its power it would have to please people.
As I was about to talk about these things all of us stopped and looked up. A large, black form was heading towards us. A form that had red eyes that seemed perverted yet loving somehow. Jeor was wanting me to ride him again. I held up a hand and those closest to me stopped. As my dragon landed my army quickly stopped marching. Some in fear. Some in respect. Some in a combination of both. Not respecting and fearing dragons would mean a swift end to any creature.
Just as I was about to get off my stag, I turned my head to see Tormund and a Dothraki coming towards me. The former was riding a horse while the latter was running on his own legs. Jeor growled in annoyance as he wanted me on his back. Depending on the information my men gave me, I would have to forgo my dragon for some time. Keeping a stoic face I was able to calm the dragon.
"Khaleesi," The Dothraki said and I held back a shiver. "There is a man claiming to be Ser Barristan Selmy."
Jorah and I looked at each other. The man had died by the hands of the Sons of the Harpy, a group led by Daario Naharis. The only reason Selmy would be alive now was because the tears in reality were becoming larger. When I had gone to the alternate known world reality, it had been different. But at least that tear had only involved me and no one else. If it was truly Selmy who had appeared, it meant I had to hurry up with the Nightmare or risk destroying everything.
"Bronn, tell my men that they can take a break." I said. "I don't know how long this will last. Jorah, until I say so you need to stay away from Selmy. If he sees you he might not side with us and I would hate to have to kill him."
Jorah nodded. The last time the two had seen each other was when Daenerys had exiled my husband. Selmy did not know about Daenerys forgiving the Mormont. He did not know anything past his own murder. Or, at least, that's what I was assuming. I was assuming at which point in his life he had come from. I was assuming that if he had already met the Mad Queen, he had escaped. A man with Selmy's talents wouldn't be wasted as an errand boy.
As I made my way towards Selmy I found Grey Worm. If there was a way to convince the former advisor of Daenerys, it was with the Unsullied. Selmy knew Grey Worm and so would trust what he would say. Even if Selmy didn't know Grey Worm, the tormented man's responses couldn't be read as fake. At least not to any rational mind.
Grey Worm followed me with no expression on his face, but I could still feel the hatred. If Selmy turned out to be an ally of the Targaryen, there would be bloodshed. There was only so much that could be done to control the Unsullied's broken heart and rage-filled mind. It was a risk that needed to be taken so I could have another ally. Selmy, from all the stories I had heard, was a great swordsman and considered one of the best in Westeros. That's what was needed not only to defeat Daenerys but also the White Walkers.
When I finally reached Selmy he was surrounded by Wildlings and Dothraki. His face did not show an ounce of fear but only irritation. One of his hands was close enough to his sword that he could attack at a moment's notice. The moment I was in his sight he looked at me. As I waved my men to stand back, I could feel the power in his gaze. This was a man that wasn't to be fooled with and deserved my respect. Even when his actions had led my husband to getting grey scale. If it hadn't been for Father, Jorah might never have been cured.
"I am Queen Rin Kaari of the Seven Kingdoms." I said and didn't allow my eye to show anything. "I've heard many things about you, Ser Barristan Selmy, including your death by the Sons of the Harpy in Meereen."
There was some surprise and shock on his face. Good, he hadn't yet met Daenerys Targaryen. The bad part of that was he hadn't yet experienced the queen's madness for himself yet. He hadn't yet felt the fear that came from looking at how much she had changed. If Selmy had been there when Jeor, Yara, and Sansa had died he would've stood with me. At least I hoped that was the case.
"The Kaari died a long time ago." Selmy replied.
I wondered if he was more confused about my House still being alive or him being dead. His body was fully alive and yet in one reality he had died. Just because he hadn't asked about his death didn't mean he understood my words. It could be that it horrified him too much to say a word about it. As if by not mentioning it it would become false.
"My House only appeared to have died." I told him. "We lived by mixing our blood and hiding. By the time I was born there was no other Kaari alive. The closest I have to a blood relative is Viserion, former dragon of Daenerys Targaryen."
"You stole from her, didn't you?" Selmy said angrily. "Now you've placed yourself on the Iron Throne to end your old rivalry."
"I served her loyally in Essos. It was I who both saved her from a murder attempt by Daario Naharis, leader of the Sons of the Harpy, and helped her take back Meereen. My missing eye and the scars that line my body were earned by serving her. I was not raised a Kaari and even knowing my heritage does not cloud my judgment about her."
"Then she is dead?"
The hurt in his eyes made me wish she was dead. If Daenerys was dead that meant she hadn't turned mad and it didn't fall on Jorah to kill her. It would mean that the world was a better place as her name would resound as a light through history. What she had accomplished was something to be praised. She had been a good friend and her talks with me were some of my most pleasant memories. I didn't know how to tell Selmy that she was alive and had followed in her father's footsteps.
"If only she were dead." Grey Worm hissed.
Selmy turned in shock at the Unsullied's comment. This is why I had brought him to this meeting so I couldn't have much regret. Yet I wished that he had worded his sentence differently. That he had thought before he spoke. But Grey Worm's mind wasn't one to be trusted. At least not anymore.
"She killed Missandei." Grey Worm continued before Selmy could reply. "She became a different woman when she crossed the Narrow Sea. Daenerys is no longer the person I serve. I rather she water the earth with her blood."
"Grey Worm." I said softly.
"She only cares for power now. She and all that serve her should become corpses littering the ground. The stench should scare away eve-"
My voice had such power behind it that it snapped him from his rambling. The dragons in the sky seemed let out a scream of fear. The Wildings looked at me as if I were some animal and not a person. Selmy looked at me in an odd combination of both fear and respect.
"That's not Daenerys." Selmy said.
"Daenerys Targaryen fell to temptations of power as she crossed the Narrow Sea." I replied. "She killed Varys before reaching Dragonstone. She is, as we all are, blamed for her own actions. However, her lover Yara Greyjoy did influence her to the point where the Targaryen trusted no one but the Greyjoy. By the time she reached King's Landing I was on the Iron Throne as the Seven Kingdoms needed a ruler. I was awaiting her arrival so I could give up the power. I only wanted to live in seclusion and rebuild my House. When she came she killed Yara, Sansa Stark, and my son Jeor. Daenerys took Cersei Lannister and seeks to kill Jon Snow, thus removing the last person to have a claim on the Iron Throne."
"But Jon Snow is just a bastard."
"Since you've been gone he has risen to the rank of King of the North. I have had a vision, which Daenerys trusts, that he is Jaehaerys Targaryen son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark."
There was a pause and I was glad the man seemed to be trusting me. It might be that his whole world had been shaken so he was willing to trust me. Or maybe he truly believed what I said. While I wasn't fond of the man, I knew he wasn't one to hide behind masks. At least not like Littlefinger or Varys. If he sided with me now I would trust him.
"What is the last memory you remember, Ser Barristan?" I asked.
"I was in Meereen in a fight with the Sons of the Harpy." Selmy replied. "I died?"
"Even the greatest among us fall. Some that should have heroic deaths are murdered in alleyways."
"Have you chosen a king? Is Jaime Lannister the Lord Commander of your queensguard or Daenerys'?"
I would now have to mention Jorah and hope the man understood. He could still harbor resentment towards my husband and so decide to walk away. Where would he go, though? He was alive when he shouldn't be and the queen he had served was now mad. There was no avoiding the question so I had to decide my next words very carefully.
"Jaime Lannister has earned my trust." I told Selmy. "He made sure Jeor was safe and my ancestral sword was not destroyed during my torture at King's Landing. While I was his captive on my way to King's Landing he told me that he had killed the Mad King to save the city. Daenerys' father planned to burn the city with wildfire. Due to the loss of one of his hands he has been replaced by Ser Bronn. As for my king...things have changed since you died. Daenerys eventually forgave Ser Jorah Mormont. Going against our former queen hurts both of us and we do not do so lightly."
Selmy's face didn't know which emotion to choose. He must be angry and confused about Jorah's fate. It was the former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard that had helped my husband be exiled. That had inadvertently infected Jorah with grey scale. Selmy must also feel the same way about Jaime. Before it became more common knowledge of why Jaime had killed the Mad King, Daenerys' father, the act had not been looked at kindly.
"Why did Daenerys let Jorah back into her service?" Selmy demanded. "Why did you choose him as your king?"
"Jorah brought our former queen Tyrion Lannister and later helped rescue her from the Dothraki." I replied as if I weren't worried about Selmy's decision. "When I met up with Daenerys in the Raqus estate Jorah was there. In Essos I married him and when I sat upon the Iron Throne I was not going to give that love up. I was not going to show such callousness to the first man I ever loved."
"He meant what he said, didn't he? He served only her."
I nodded. It would be good to have Selmy on my side. But I wouldn't force him into my service, nor would I expect his loyalty. He had come back from the dead and still had many things to work out. It would be foolish and naive to expect him to bend the knee.
"If you will accept my service, Queen Rin," Selmy said as he knelt. "I swear by the old gods and the new to never waiver in my loyalty."
"I accept your loyalty, Ser Barristan Selmy," I replied. "We begin marching to the Vale in an hour. For now you will guard Lyria Lannister. Once we camp for the night you will be updated about the battle plans."
* * *
"You did a brave thing today, Rin." Jorah said once we were alone in our tent. "I know what forgiving Barristan meant to you."
"I didn't forgive him." I said sitting down on the edge of our bed. "If it wasn't for Father you might have never been cured. The one man I love in this reality might be fated to madness. I know I should forgive him, but I keep seeing you as a stone man when I consider the idea."
For a few minutes Jorah said nothing as he sat down beside me. He put an arm around me and I leaned against him. I needed his body heat that reassured me about everything. I worried that Selmy had only bent the knee because he was confused. Only with time would his loyalty to me, Jorah, and the rest of my inner circle be proven. If Selmy at any time felt his place was with Daenerys, I would have to kill him. He knew how I planned to attack Daenerys' forces and the Eyrie. That wasn't information the enemy should know.
"I've forgiven him." Jorah said breaking the silence.
"But you're the one who was hurt." I replied, touching his arm which held the remnants of his grey scale.
"What I did was wrong. Even though I served Daenerys in time, spying for the crown was not honorable. She was right to be angry. Barristan only did what he did to protect her. I can't hate a man for that."
"And he couldn't make it so her view of your actions didn't lead to exile, Jorah?"
"We both know it was her decision, not his. No matter how he informed her, it was her choice in the end. Even as she threatens the Seven Kingdoms, you wish to forgive her?"
I looked at my husband and saw a small smile on his face. We both cared for her more than we should. Her betrayal had both hurt us in more ways than we could ever say. I didn't doubt that Jorah was still making excuses for her even if he never said them aloud. Even if he killed her, she wouldn't be a monster to him. It was a curse both of us would bear until the day we died. We would care for her even as her name was a curse to other people. I would always blame her for Jorah's grey scale, but I had a much larger loathing of Selmy for my husband's former illness.
"I just think if he approached her another way, you wouldn't have been exiled." I said.
"Daenerys was right to be angry. She was more than justified in her wrath." Jorah replied.
"No she wasn't. She could be angry but she saw how hard you fought for her. How much you cared for her."
"I was shown to have lied in the beginning. Why couldn't I be lying again?"
"Because it wouldn't make sense. King Robert Baratheon would want her dead as quickly as possible. Once she hatched dragons...only her death would have pleased him. Maybe even the death of her dragons."
The thought of Viserion dying made me shiver. He was the closest to a blood relative I had. With two wars, one with Daenerys and one with the White Walkers, I knew he could die. However, I didn't like to think about it. My brother had to survive. He had to make it out alive and help breed other dragons. There were eggs elsewhere in the known world and they could be hatched. He would help start a new line of dragons.
"I would like to see Eve." I said.
"I need to show you something first." Alex said and lead me down the stairs.
I gave a brief glance to Sam who seemed to be doing well. The others were being more than welcoming and making sure of his intentions. Down the long flight of stairs was a beautiful sight. It was a cave with water trickling down the middle and out of the opening. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all kept as they were when this place was discovered. The opening was wide enough for my dragon form and looked down upon a small forest. Looking above the forest I saw a ceiling that was quickly opening to show the sky. I had known that the mountain had a hole in the center and the cover could be removed.
"I thought you were dead." Alex said as he took his place beside me. "But I wasn't going to leave Winterfell without a place to remember you by."
"It's perfect." I replied.